Beware of dangers lurking in the ‘cloud’

REALTORS®, do you turn to cloud-based technology for your document or transaction management? Be warned, you could be working with an accident waiting to happen.

Not all cloud-based technology is created equal. Certain applications are considered ‘unsecure’ and can be a dangerous choice for real estate agents as they’re not equipped to address the basic security needs of the real estate industry, with its specific processes and regulatory mandates.

What should you look for? Think ‘security’ and remember C.I.A: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Ask yourself:

  1. Can you trust the service to allow only the right people to access your documents at appropriate times?

REALTORS® require a strong level of authentication to protect unauthorized access to the kind of sensitive information you may post. Certain cloud-based technology share documents via a web address using a sequence of random numbers and letters. While it might seem impossible to think that someone could guess what that random sequence might be – computers are much better at it.

  1. Can you rely on it to make sure your documents have not been altered in a way you don’t want, and that they reflect the actual state of what you’ve done with them?

When dealing with real estate transactions, it is crucial to know who has made what changes to a file at what time. It is equally important to be able to reverse changes that have been made, and to “lock” files against further modification.

  1. And can you be certain that your documents will be available when you need them over the long term?

Requirements for Canadian real estate brokers to keep records may differ from province to province. If you don’t have a contract with a company that provides for that long-term guaranteed home for your files, you could find yourself in a bad position with regard to record retention requirement compliance.

There are great options available to REALTORS®, developed with the real estate industry in mind. They allow you to grant different levels of access to different parties, track the changes to documents and establish when people have seen them, check for missing documents, manage document review and approval, and more. Most importantly, they allow you to stay compliant with regulatory requirements for data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

This is the fourth in a series of short articles here on CREA Café intended to help make the subject of information security more accessible – and understandable. We hope you’ll help raise information security awareness by sharing the articles within your office and through your own online community, as well. For more information on information security best practices for REALTORS®, Brokers, and Boards and Associations, please visit REALTOR Link®.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Matt Cohen, Clareity Consulting's Chief Technologist, has over 17 years of extensive real estate technology and business experience. Real estate software and technology providers look to Matt for assistance with product planning, software design, quality assurance, usability, and information security assessments. Matt has spoken at many industry events, has been published as an author in Stefan Swanepoel’s “Trends” report and a variety of magazines, and was listed as one of Inman’s 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders for 2013.

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